Antron Brown made history in 2012 as the first black American to win a professional motorsports championship, but he started the 2013 season escaping with his life after a terrible crash at the Winternationals.
The Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Top Fueler of Brown’s had been running well, advancing to the semifinals at the Winternationals, which always starts the drag racing season and is one of the biggest and most famous meets in drag racing. He defeated three-time world champion Larry Dixon in the first round, moving to the quarterfinals against Australian David Grubnic. Brown would defeat Grubnic but it’s what happened afterwards that was horrifying to watch (see video here – ESPN).
With a nice .046 reaction time, Antron beat Grubnic off the line as they headed down the 1,000 foot strip at Pomona Raceway. Grubnic had early tire shake and had to shut it off as Brown thundered down the course. At the finish line, the engine blew, taking out both rear tires and sending the 25 foot long ground-pounding monster careening out of control as it headed down the short run-off that is Pomona.
The Matco Tools dragster tried to go airborne as it twisted across the track and crashed into the left wall before heading back over to the right side of the track. As it burst into flames, what remained of the car with the driver still inside the cockpit then hit the right side wall and slid until it ended up in the sand trap where it finally came to a stop. Within moments of the car stopping, the Safety Safari ran to Brown’s rescue as he wiggled his way out of the mangled mess. And with that it was over.
The 36 year old Brown had a few scrapes and bumps but was not severely hurt. The car was totaled and the rules didn’t allow him back in the race with a new car so the day was done. It took 90 minutes for the NHRA track crews to get the debris cleaned up for the next elimination round.
On a day that saw motorsports history written with women, Brown managed to escape making the wrong kind of history. Antron Brown and his DSR team are set to defend their title from a year ago as there’s no rest, with another event on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series this coming weekend at Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona – a track that may or may not be running its final NHRA event.
Drag racing is like any other motorsport and there are no guarantees. The DSR cars were the first to be outfitted with a canopy which may have done its job by keeping Brown cocooned inside the slender dragster. This tumultuous and fiery crash (pics here – Daily News) was expensive but the safety precautions saved the driver. Certainly Brown thought so saying, “I remember turning the fresh air on because the [nitro] fumes were getting to me. Thank God that canopy is on our car because when we hit that sand trap it really kept everything away from me, and kept the fire away from me.”